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#SRILANKA, 156 People Killed, Hundreds Injured In Coordinated Easter Bombings (Graphic Photos Below)

Apparently coordinated attacks rip through hotels and churches throughout the country; security officials suspect suicide bombers behind at least some blasts.

Sri Lanka: At least 156 killed, hundreds injured in Easter bombings
Apparently coordinated attacks rip through hotels and churches throughout the country; security officials suspect suicide bombers behind at least some blasts.

The blasts hit three high-end hotels and one church in the capital, Colombo, while two additional churches were targeted elsewhere in the country during Easter services, Sri Lankan police said.

Sri Lanka’s Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe called the blasts “cowardly” and said the government was working to “contain the situation.”

“I call upon all Sri Lankans during this tragic time to remain united and strong,” he wrote in a tweet.

Local security officials said at least two of the attacks appeared to have been carried out by suicide bombers.

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The sites were all heavily frequented by tourists, and at least nine foreign nationals were killed in the explosions, police told AFP. A hospital source said Americans, British and Dutch citizens were among the dead.

Israel’s Foreign Ministry said it was not aware of any Israeli victims in the attacks, but was still looking into the matter.

There was no immediate claim of responsibility for the apparent coordinated attack.

Sri Lanka’s police chief made a nationwide alert 10 days before Sunday’s bomb attacks in the country that suicide bombers planned to target “prominent churches,” according to the warning seen by AFP.

“A foreign intelligence agency has reported that the NTJ (National Thowheeth Jama’ath) is planning to carry out suicide attacks targeting prominent churches as well as the Indian high commission in Colombo,” said the alert, which was sent by police chief Pujuth Jayasundara to top officers

The NTJ is a radical Muslim group in Sri Lanka that came to notice last year when it was linked to the vandalization of Buddhist statues.

According to hospital officials, at least 40 people were killed in the Colombo attacks; at least 62 were killed in Negombo, north of the capital; and at least 27 were killed in Batticalao, on the country’s eastern coast.

The first blast ripped through St. Anthony’s Shrine in Colombo.

Alex Agileson, who was in the vicinity, said buildings in the surrounding area shook with the blast.

At least 160 people injured in the St. Anthony’s blast had been admitted to the Colombo National Hospital by mid-morning, an official told AFP.

Another explosion was reported at St. Sebastian’s Church in Negombo, a Catholic-majority town north of Colombo. The church appealed for help on its Facebook page, and posted graphic photographs and videos from the scene.

“A bomb attack to our church, please come and help if your family members are there,” the church wrote.

Photos from the St. Sebastian’s Church circulating on social media showed the roof had been almost blown off in the blast. The floor was littered with a mixture of roof tiles, splintered wood and blood.

Several people could be seen covered in blood, with some trying to help those with more serious injuries.

A church in the town of Batticalao, in the east of the country, was also targeted in the attack, police said.

An official at the Batticaloa hospital told AFP more than 300 people had been admitted to hospitals with injuries following the blast there.

At least one of the victims was killed in Colombo’s Cinnamon Grand Hotel, near the prime minister’s official residence, where the blast ripped through a restaurant, a hotel official told AFP.

The island nation of Sri Lanka, just off the coast from India, endured a brutal and bloody civil war from 1983 to 2009, when the government declared victory over the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam insurgent group, also known as the Tamil Tigers.

Only around six percent of mainly Buddhist Sri Lanka is Catholic, but the religion is seen as a unifying force because it includes people from both the Tamil and majority Sinhalese ethnic groups.

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